COMMERCE CITY – Instead of spending his Saturdays hanging out doing what typical teenagers do, Isaiah Silvas is doing taxes at Adams City High School.
"We work really hard to be able to come and give back to our community and it really does mean a lot to me to be able to do that," Silvas, a junior, said.
Silvas is part of Tax Help Colorado, a program set up by a non-profit called the Piton Foundation to offer free tax help to lower-income and moderate-income working families around Colorado. Normally, this is done by trained college students.
Silvas is one of 21 teenagers working the only Tax Help Colorado site run entirely by high school students.
"That's most people's kind of mindset when they come in here. They're a little hesitant because they see high school students," Silvas said. "They think here's these punk kids and what do they know."
Adams City High School Business Teacher Dennis Mercer makes sure these students know a lot. He's working with Front Range Community College to have his students earn college credit while learning a professional skill.
"The first semester of their class, they actually take a tax class and then they take the IRS exams," Mercer said. "They become certified."
Mercer and other trained adults are on site to supervise and help with complicated situations, but for the most part, students like Silva are making sure people's taxes are filed correctly.
"It's not something people come to be excited about, tax site," Silvas said. "But for me, I come in here and it makes me feel important."
Tim Logan came in to seek help on his tax return. He was pleased with the service.
"They're learning how to interact," Logan said. "They're learning how to handle people."
Mercer says this is the most rewarding thing he's ever done as an educator.
"To take a student, teach them a skill, and watch them perform it in a professional manner," Mercer said. "I'm just excited about it as a teacher."
Out of the 21 students preparing taxes, 15 of them are bilingual. The community around Adams City High School is heavily Hispanic and Silvas knows trust can be an issue when it comes to things like taxes.
"It really does help for a lot of families to be able to come in and know that they can get this free and they're going to be able to have the asset of someone helping them in Spanish or not having to translate," Silvas said.
Silvas and the other students have worked 10 Saturdays this Spring. They have another Tax Help Colorado day set up at Adams City High School on Saturday, April 12 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
Mercer believes his students are making a big difference.
"This year, I anticipate we'll hit a million dollars in refunds to the community," Mercer said.
After volunteering for 40 hours, the students will get special recognition from the Governor. So far, students have logged a total of more than 1,000 volunteer hours.
"We are here to help," Silvas said. "We know what we are doing."
If you want to find out more about Adams City High School or other Tax Help Colorado sites click here: http://www.piton.org/taxhelpcolorado.
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